Loon Chicks at Ten Weeks, September 7, 2021

September 07, 2021  •  11 Comments

Our loon chicks are now about ten and a half weeks old. I had a chance to catch up with them this morning. Both chicks seem to be doing well. They're growing fast. Both are feeding on their own - as well as pestering their parents for food. They're getting fairly independent, one wander off something like a half mile from the parent on duty this morning. (Only one parent was around this morning, the other has probably headed off for a short break.)
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

One of the osprey made an appearance as well. It flew over the pond a few times, then settled on a branch to watch. After several minutes, it flew back over with a nice breakfast. 
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OspreyOspreyOsprey

Most of the loon's morning was spent foraging, or pestering the parent to forage. The loons didn't seem to have much luck catching fish. The parent surfaced several times with fingerlings, but never a good-sized fish. 
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But, crayfish were plentiful.
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Here's our parent inbound with another crayfish. 
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The handoff.... Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

Oh, oh,  a fumble! Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

The crayfish didn't get far, our chick ties again.. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

Ouch! Looks like the chick got pinched! Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

The chick is determined and tries again. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

Let's see if it will go down this way.... Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

Drats! Another fumble! Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

OK, this time is going to work.... Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

No! Not again! Once more the crayfish makes a break for it! Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

But the crayfish's luck runs out.... Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

As soon as our parent surfaced this morning, at least one of the chicks would head over and start pestering the parent for a meal. If the parent was delivering a meal, the chick would eat that and immediately start pestering. The parent was rarely on the surface for more than a few second at a time. The parent was  pretty good at deflecting the chick's bill away, but the chicks were persistent and often managed to pinch the parent.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

One of our chicks eventually took a break from foraging and did some feather maintenance. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
Followed by a stretch... Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

The trees on the hills around our pond are already turning a little rusty. We've got just a few weeks left before our family moves on. 


Saturday Morning With The Loon Family, August 21, 2021

August 21, 2021  •  3 Comments

Our loon chicks are now ten weeks old. I had a chance to visit them on Saturday. Both appear to be doing well. Both have grown considerably since I last visited (18 days ago). They're now nearly adult size. They're foraging on their own, but still want their parents to feed them. They're getting very independent, much of the morning the family was spread out over something like half a mile of pond. Both chicks surfaced with crayfish and I saw a couple instances where a chick brought up a fish to get it pointed in the right direction, but not sure if it was both chicks or one repeatedly. 

They've lost their fluffy look and are growing into their winter plumage. Their bills are elongated and now look like the adult's. 

Let's go back to when they were five and six days old. Notice their bills. 
Common loons with chicksCommon loons with chicksCommon loon with chicks

This chick surfaced close to my boat this morning, you can see the how the bill has changed. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

Loon chicks will pester their parents when they're hungry (which seems to be most of the time they're not sleeping). They'll poke and nibble their parent, usually around the neck, until the parent dives. The parents kept their distance from the chicks for much of the morning. They'd close up now and again and spend some time feeding the chicks. Several times I saw a chick try to approach a parent, only to have the parent dive and move away. They probably just needed some peace and quiet for a few minutes. 

Here's a chick closing in on one of the parents. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

And a few shots of the chicks pestering an adult.
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

The chicks are serious about getting attention. You can often see them grab hold of the adult's feathers. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
And when grabbing a few feathers doesn't get action, a bigger bite and twisting may do the trick. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

Now we're getting somewhere! One of the adults has caught a crayfish. 
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The handoff!
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Oh no! It is one of those dastardly crayfish that wants to put up a fight!

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

Maybe a fish will be easier.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
Yup, that works.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
Of course, there's preening to be done. 
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And a couple of stretches after they've done their preening. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
 


Checking In With The Loons, August 4, 2021

August 04, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Our loon family with two chicks was receiving visitors yesterday morning, August 3. The chicks are now 46 & 47 days old. They both appear to be doing well. They're diving, and occasionally catching food, on their own. But, they're always hungry and encouraging the parents to feed them. 

The loons will have to take a brief hiatus. I'll be down at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fair for through August 15. I'll resume the story as soon as possible after the Fair. 

The loons were foraging at the far end of the pond from the boat launch, I ran into some of the usual suspects along the way to see the loons. This is the most common view I get of common mergansers:

Common loonCommon loonCommon merganser, New Hampshire
 

Hank Heron was out and about. 
Great blue heronGreat blue heronGreat blue heron

The fishing wasn't very good this morning. Hank caught just one small fish while I watched. The loons came up with a few small fish for the chicks and the osprey made sever or eight dives without catching anything before perching to watch for a meal. 
Great blue heronGreat blue heronGreat blue heron OspreyOspreyOsprey

This was the largest fish I saw the parents hand off to the chicks. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

The parents were foraging fairly far away from the chicks. They were covering a good portion of their pond. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire
 

An early morning stretch. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

One of the loons took some time off from feeding the chicks to preen and stretch.

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Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

The chicks are getting big. From a distance, it is hard to tell them from their parents. Their fluff is going and their feathers are growing in.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire

The chicks were actively foraging in the shallow water. They both managed to catch food. There appeared to be several dragonfly nymphs, but most of what they caught was too small for me to ID.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, New Hampshire


Update on Both Loon Families, July 30, 2021

July 30, 2021  •  2 Comments


Over the past several days, I've had a chance to stop in to visit both the loon families I've been following in the Upper Connecticut River Valley area. I was able to visit the family with two chicks four times, the other family once. I'm way behind on editing the pix, but here's a first look to see how everyone is doing. 

Let's start with our one-chick family. When these were taken on July 23, the chick was something like 33 days old. The chick looks to be doing well. It has grown notably, is feeding well and learning to loon. It even managed to catch a snack all by itself when I was there.

You can see that all the chick's bills are changing shape, getting longer and pointier. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area

They've still got some growing to do if they're going to fit into their feet. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
Adolescent chicks will pester adults when they're hungry - which seems like most of the time they aren't sleeping. The chicks will nibble the adult, usually around the chest or neck until they get results. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
The chick's wings aren't yet up to providing the lift needed to fly. Actually, the little guy is probably just stretching. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
Sometimes you get lucky and the loons do something interesting in some nice light. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
And sometimes, they just disappear. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
It had been 11 days since I visited the family with two chicks on July 22. The chicks were 33 and 34 days old and doing well. 

There was a visitor to the loon's pond just before sunrise. Mrs. Moose walked out of the woods and into the pond and swam across the pond. I was in her path, she ignored me, but I made good time getting out of her way. 

MooseMooseMoose
This shot gives you an idea of why loons look they way they do. On a day with just a slight wind, the pattern on their backs blends nicely with the highlights on the water. And, being white on the bottom, would help them blend into the sky if you were below and looking up. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
The chicks will often, and the adults occasionally, swipe at the water with their bill by shaking their head back and forth. My bet is that this is the loon equivalent of blowing your nose - a way to clear their sinuses. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
The adult has spotted an immature eagle flying over the pond. Before the adults swam off towards the eagle, they herded the chicks close to my boat. I've seen this several times over the years. It is likely that the loons believe that raptors want to stay well clear of people and boats, giving the chicks safe harbor. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon
With a threat overhead, loon chicks flatten themselves on the water. This makes their profile smaller, making it harder for a predator to spot them.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon Common loonCommon loonCommon loon
I made it back to the pond on Saturday July 24 to check on them again. There was only one adult on the pond when I arrived about 0430. It is not uncommon for loons to wander off for a time. I imagine they just need a break to recharge. I've visited ponds where a loon was off on a break, but don't recall ever seeing one spend the night away. I took a good look around the pond to make sure the missing loon wasn't in distress. 


Here's a nice portrait of the adult on duty and the chicks.

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
One of the chicks. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area

And a chick in need of a snack. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
And a snack headed inbound. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
That's a nice-sized brook trout. It took some work to get it down, but the chick was up for the challenge.  I'm not quite sure where a chick that small puts a fish that big when it swallows it.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
Having lots of chores do to around the house Saturday evening, I made the obvious choice and returned to the pond. Our absent loon was still absent and the chicks spent much of the evening napping. 

This little painted turtle was basking in the afternoon light. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
And, Mrs. Moose returned. Her presence attracted a flotilla of boats - 8 at one point. She didn't seem to care. One of the guys in a canoe asked if we were sure this was a moose. I have no earthly idea what else it could have been, but yes, yes we were sure. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
The moose spent about an hour browsing along the shore, above and below water. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
On July 27, I made it back before sunup, curious to see if our wayward loon had returned. My arrival was delayed by Mrs. Moose who was sauntering up the one lane road to the pond, stopping to browse as needed. She was going to do what she needed to do, and I could wait, thank you very much.  She eventually wandered off into the brush and I was able to continue. 

Both adults were back on the pond and working hard to feed the chicks. One takes a quick break to stretch. 
Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
Loons eat crayfish - if you mange to see a loon eating, it is probably eating a crayfish. They swallow a lot of their prey underwater, but the crayfish need to be lined up to slide down tail first to avoid the pinchers. Loons will often bring them to the surface and toss them to get them lined up properly. The loons I've watched raise chicks before would usually bring fish to the chicks, with a few crayfish mixed in. This pair of loons seem partial to crayfish. Not sure if it is a personal taste or if crayfish are just more common than fish this year. Here's an adult inbound with a good-sized crayfish. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
And the handoff. 
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Both adults heading inbound, each with a crayfish. Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
This turned into a race, with the adult with the smaller crayfish diving to get ahead.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
Here's a chick with the bigger of the crayfish. It looks like the crayfish was uncooperative and pinched the chick.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
The crayfish's strategy almost worked, the chick spit it out. The victory was short-lived, the chick hunted the crayfish down and swallowed it.  Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
After a nap, one of our chicks stretches. ​​​​​​ Common loonCommon loonCommon loon, Upper Connecticut River Valley area
I tried again on the 29th, heading up before sunup. Mrs. Moose ran across the parking lot and the boat launch before heading into the woods. The forecast was for mostly sunny, but that didn't work out. There were heavy clouds and the haze from the western wildfires. With much light, I mostly sat and watched. But, I did, sorta, catch an interaction between a loon and a family of geese. The goose family, two adults and a mostly grown gosling, have been around all summer. Mostly, the families ignore each other. I did see the single loon tending the chicks on the 24th drive the geese back at one point. But, this morning the geese were minding their own business swimming away from the chicks, probably about 600' feet and going way when one of our loons popped up to tell the geese to be gone. I imagine that having a ticked off loon appear out of nowhere to rear up over you must be a terrifying experience. The geese decided to move along. 

Common loonCommon loonCommon loon confronting geese
I'll be down at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fair in Sunapee from August 7th to the 15th. Come on by and say hello. More info about the Fair at the League's site, NHCrafts.org


Finally! The Swallow Chick Fledges, July 21, 2021

July 21, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Our surviving tree swallow chick left the nesting box this morning. Mom moved him off to the brush along the edge of the yard. That may be the last we see of him. 

There He Goes! Swallow Fledges July 21, 2021